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Ravintsara Oil

Cinnamonum camphora - family: Lauraceae


Ravensara aromatica is native to Australia, Tasmania and Madagascar and thrives in humid conditions of rain forests with an altitude between 70 and 100 metres. It grows to a height of 20 metres with several buttress roots at the base. The bark is reddish and the leaves are simple elliptical in shape. The flowers are small and green and a fruit is produced with six septum inside.

Ravensara aromatica is native to Australia, Tasmania and Madagascar and thrives in humid conditions of rain forests with an altitude between 70 and 100 metres. It grows to a height of 20 metres with several buttress roots at the base. The bark is reddish and the leaves are simple elliptical in shape. The flowers are small and green and a fruit is produced with six septum inside.

Traditionally, the Malagasy people use the bark and stem as a tonic and antibacterial medicine. The leaves were also burnt in homes after a death to prevent the spread of disease. The anise flavoured bark is used in the production of local rum.

Cinnamomum camphora - Ravintsara is a large evergreen tree that grows up to 20–30 metres tall. The leaves have a glossy, waxy appearance. The foliage is bright green with masses of small white flowers that come out in spring. It produces clusters of black berry-like fruit. It has a pale bark that is very rough and fissured vertically.


The ravintsara tree is not indigenous to Madagascar and was introduced to the island in the early 19th century from China. It is a chemotype of the Cinnamonum camphora tree which has lost its ability to produce any trace of camphor in the Madagascan climate.

Ravintsara means ‘the good leaf’ and the Malagasy people have come to recognise and highly appreciate the therapeutic value of the leaves and the essential oil. Both have been used intensively in folk medicine to treat stomach aches and headaches, colds and chest infections.

The Agatophyllum aromaticum tree was discovered in 1792 by Sonnerat and was given the botanical name of Ravensara aromatica. Two types of oils are produced from this tree. The oil produced form the steam-distilled leaves is called ‘ravensara aromatica’ and the oil produced from the bark is 'ravensara anisata'.


A little chemistry

Ravintsara oil is extracted by steam distillation from the leaves and has a fresh, slightly sweet balsamic odour quite reminiscent of rosemary. The main chemical components are oxides (with at least 45% to 55%1,8-cineole), monoterpenes (sabinene 15%, alpha-pinene and beta-pinene), sesquiterpenes(beta-carophyllene), monoterpenic alcohols(alpha-terpineol 7% and terpineol) and esters (terpenyl acetate) and numerous trace compounds.

Ravensara aromatica is high in methylchavicol (estragole), sabinene, alpha-terpinene, limonene, but contains very little 1.8 cineole. Ravensara anisata has a higher methylchavicol content (up to 90%) than the leaf oil and is characterised with a stong anisic odour. This oil is not used in Aromatherapy.

Botanical identity

“The situation regarding the exact botanical identification of the source of Ravensara oil has previously confused some most learned and academic researchers (let alone aromatherapists) and has been the subject of a number of articles.” writes Tony Burfield.

Kurt Schnaubelt, leading figure in Aromatherapy, has described Ravensara aromatica as being high in 1.8 cineole, of which it contains very little. A certain confusion with ravintsara.

Ravensara is a latinisation of the Malagasy word ravintsara and was generally given to the oils distilled from either ravensara aromatica or cinnamonum camphora.

Recent research in the chemical make-up of these 2 oils has lead to give each of them a clear botanical identity. The leaf oil from Agatophyllum aromaticum has kept its common name of Ravensara and its botanical name of ‘Ravensara aromatica’ and the oil from cinnamonum camphora has been given the common name of 'Ravintsara'.


Both oils have a strong anti-viral action. Ravensara aromatica is particularly efficient at treating all forms of herpes and soothe inflamation caused by shingles. It needs to be used cautiously as the oils can cause skin irritation. Methylchavicol is a suspected carcinogen.

Ravintsara oil is antibacterial, anticatarrhal, antifungal, anti-infectious, anti rheumatic, antiviral, decongestant, cicatrisant, expectorant, immune tonic and neurotonic.

Schnaubelt says ‘it is the essence of choice for the treatment of influenza and shingles’ and calls the alpha-terpineol/cineole synergy the “cold-and-flu" synergy. He includes laurel, eucalyptus radiata, niaouli (MQV), tea tree and spike lavender in the same antiviral category and explains that prompt aromatic treatment of a viral condition inhibits the virus by altering the pH and electrical resistance of humoral fluids in a way that is adverse to the virus. For more information on advanced techniques using the oils consult his book ‘Medical Aromatherapy’.

Ravintsara makes the ideal oil to use when there are coughs, colds, influenza and other respiratory ailments such as asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis, laryngitis, tonsillitis and otitis. It acts as a tonic when one is lethargic or congested with white or clear catarrah.

Use it for tissue repair in cases of shingles, herpes, verrucas, warts and athletes foot.

Glandular fever, ME and immune deficiency are also assisted with ravensara oil.

Gabriel Mojay recommends the oil for nervous debility, chronic anxiety, melancholy, mild depression as well as aching muscles and sinews. He says it is ideal for restlessness and insomnia, weakened immune systems and to open the chest and instil a sense of positivity.

Certainly an all round oil which is especially beneficial during our cold damp months when we all could do with a boost to our immunity.

Suggestions for use

Makes an ideal inhalation to clear catarrah – 3 drops into a bowl of freshly boiled water and place a towel over the head to trap the rising vapours for ten minutes 3x a day.

Ravintsara can be added to a diffuser in the bedroom and living areas when one is poorly, to boost immunity and constrain infection all while raising the spirits.

And for aching muscles after a workout in the gym, a soothing sports rub or addition to a hot bath.

A few drops can be added to warm water as a gargle in the case of a sore throat. It can be dabbed neat onto verrucas or warts.

Blending suggestions

Ravintsara will blend well with all eucalyptus's,

  • Rosemary, laurel, frankincense, cardamon
  • Woods such as black spruce, cypress, juniper
  • Citrus such as lemon


Ravensara is still commonly sold as either ‘ravensara aromatica’ or 'cinnamonum camphora' which refers to two essential oils with completely different chemical make-ups. For many years now, Ravensara aromatica has been available to purchase on the market as an oil with a high level of cineole 1.8 of which, we now know, it naturally contains very little. This is rather confusing as one never knows exactly which oil one is actually buying.

Although the name ‘Ravintsara’ is still unknown, Materia Aromatica have decided to try and clear some of the confusion over Ravensara and Ravintsara, confusion, we have to admit, we have shared with many others. We have always stocked the Madagascan version of cinnamonum camphora, high in cineole 1.8, immune booster and strong anti-viral but free from camphor and methylchavicol.

We have now changed the name of our Ravensara to Ravintsara.


  • Tony Burfield – Aromatherapy Times 2004
  • Kurt Schnaubelt - Medical Aromatherapy
  • Gabriel Mojay – notes from 2003 ITHMA diploma course
  • International Journal of Aromatherapy Vol 11, Number 1, Robert Harris